Fantasy Rookies: QB And RB 2014 Preview
By Jake Ciely
With less than a month until the NFL Draft, football and fantasy football fans alike are starting to get that itch again. Well, I'm here to scratch that itch… figuratively. I barely stomach scratching family members' backs over the shirt.
1. Teddy Bridgewater – Forget his pro day, I'm still sold on Bridgewater. There are simply too many positives in my book. Bridgewater handles the blitz extremely well, has great pocket awareness, is rather mobile, doesn't waste movement and showed good accuracy. His downfield throws and touch need work, but Bridgewater can provide higher-end QB2 value if he lands on the right team.
2. Johnny Manziel – Using another NFL comparison for my concerns with Manziel, I worry that he has similarities to Jake Locker. My main concern comes with a compliment Manziel receives, just as Locker did: he's more accurate on the run. Both Locker, as we've seen, and Manziel at the college level, fall back on rolling out sooner than they should. Obviously, there is concern over Manziel taking a Michael Vick-like pounding too. Nevertheless, Manziel arguably has more immediate upside that any rookie quarterback. He could be a mid-range QB2 out of the gates.
3. Blake Bortles – My biggest concern for Bortles is the same behind my disdain for Blaine Gabbert when he came out of Missouri: footwork. Neither quarterback shows quality NFL-level footwork. It was a big factor in Gabbert failing and could lead to Bortles' downfall. Bortles has plenty of positives: NFL build, quality release and good decision-making. That last fact should give Bortles a better chance for success, but you won't see fantasy value from Bortles as a rookie and quite possibly not in year two either.
4. Derek Carr – Carr certainly has the arm. He can fire the ball all over the field, and it's hard to find a pass that Carr can't make. His athleticism is solid – good enough to help him out of trouble. The problem is that Carr played mainly out of the shotgun and struggled against higher-end competition. Carr isn't a day one starter in the NFL, and for that reason, he's barely on the radar from a fantasy redraft perspective.
1. Tre Mason – I see some Ahmad Bradshaw in Mason: a quick, one-cut back who lacks ideal size. In fact, Mason is only one inch shorter than Bradshaw and similarly lacks breakaway speed. Don’t be fooled though, as Mason has underrated power, and it’s why he’s similarly compared to Ray Rice. As with all backs on this list, his landing spot can weigh heavily on his outlook. Mason has RB2 potential.
2. Isaiah Crowell – If not for his off-field issues, Crowell would be much higher on draft boards. Crowell is arguably the best all-around running back in the class with speed, moves, power, etc. Someone is going to get a steal in the draft, and if Crowell is the immediate backup for a team, he will have RB2 potential.
3. Carlos Hyde – Hyde brings tons of power, and tons of hurt, when running the ball. Don’t get scared off by his size though (6’0” 230lb), as Hyde displays a decent amount of allusiveness. One of Hyde’s best attributes is his pass blocking, which should land him on the field early. Hyde, like Mason and Crowell, is another back with ability for RB2 value. My only concern is his Brandon Jacob-ness at times. Hyde will sometimes forget how powerful he is and get happy feet.
4. Charles Sims – When you think of Sims, think of Matt Forte in both body type and catching ability (Forte is actually two inches taller). Forte is Sims’ ceiling, as he shows good speed, hands and cutting. The downside to Sims’ frame is that he can run “too tall,” which leads to fewer broken tackles. Sims has the potential to play the majority of snaps like Forte, but as a rookie, I would expect more situational use, limiting him to a RB3/4 level.
5. Bishop Sankey – These next four running backs, starting with Sankey, will need the right situation to have value in 2014. Sankey doesn’t have the frame to be an every-down back, but his vision is superb. His cutting ability has helped him be a better inside runner than one would think. The Gio Bernard comparisons are legitimate, but as we saw with Bernard, Sankey won’t be on the field for every down.
6. Ka'Deem Carey – Carey has some off-field concerns like Crowell, and similarly shows a nice all-around skill set. One concern is that while Carey fights for the extra yard and knows how to fall forward, he is a bit risk-laden when doing so. Carey is a solid all-around back with nothing that “wows” you, but we could say the same for several starting running backs in the NFL.
7. Jeremy Hill – Unlike Hyde, Hill’s pass blocking skill - or lack thereof - will keep him off the field at times. Hill is the type of back who is better once he’s in full gear (the ol’ “downhill runner” tag, which I loathe, just FYI). Hill is a good pass catcher too, which will help his outlook, but some off-field concerns will make Hill fall in the draft and likely cause him to be buried on a depth chart for 2014.
8. Lache Seastrunk – You won’t hear anyone say Seastrunk isn’t an amazing athlete. Seastrunk has loads of talent, but there are plenty of concerns too. Given his size, you would expect Seastrunk to be an asset in the passing game; however, he was rarely used (nine catches for his college career!). While his athleticism is enticing, Seastrunk can get overly shifty and run sideline to sideline instead of cutting up field. Seastrunk has a higher ceiling than many on this list, but there are many areas he will need to improve upon in order to reach it.